The Gaa Gaas Interview
Formed in 2003, The Gaa Gaas have taken their own post-punk and Darkwave stylings far beyond their native Jersey, developing a constantly growing reputation as a live act. After 15 years of gigging and self funded video making they’ve now released their first complete studio album. Deviation Street caught up with the band’s mainman Gavin Tate to find out more :
Hi Gavin, thanks for talking with me. I understand The Gaa Gaas have recently released an album. What can you say about this?
It feels amazing to finally have a full record out and to have released it on all formats i.e Vinyl, CD, and Tape as well as digital. Starting our own record company Movement-2 has been a real learning curve for us. To take on not only the role of keeping a functional band, but also a D.I.Y label is a mammoth task. We have taken inspiration from photographers such as Guy Bourdin and Helmut Newton for our sleeve work for releases, also Markus Rössle (Kraftwerk’s Photographer). Our aim is to try and combine the photography world with the music world, something we feel has never really been achieved fully to a certain extent. We’ve also been hugely influenced by Fast Product and neighbouring label Postcard Records, home to some of the early releases by Gang Of Four, Scars, The Mekons, Human League, Orange Juice, and Josef K. There was a great documentary film that came out a few years back called ‘Big Gold Dream’ which covered that whole period. I loved listening to them talk about having parties at their flat and colouring in 7″ singles with felt tip pens when they were all off their heads. I actually own a copy of one of those Josef K ‘Radio Drill Time’ singles! It’s like I’m part of the legacy just by owning one. That’s the beauty of it; you can feel the passion just by listening to Gaye Advert talking about when she first obtained a copy of The Damned’s ‘New Rose’ single. It must’ve been a really exciting time and that’s why music will always thrill. It’s that type of escapism within the art form of the punk ethic.
When you formed in 2003 there was a real movement of guitar bands around. Did you already know what The Gaa Gaas were going to do or were you directly inspired by the whole BRMC/Yeah Yeah Yeahs/Franz Ferdinand thing?
We were definitely born out the whole garage revival that exploded around that time. Dirty Water Club was like a breath of fresh air for us as gig goers. All the groups that played the night were phenomenal. That insane dirty rock’n’roll guitar sound was responsible for The Libertines whom enjoyed major popularity. If you listen to those Sonic Mook Experiment (Future of Rock’n’Roll) compilations, you can hear bits and bobs of us in all those groups. We formed after attending a tour that consisted of The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster, The Parkinsons and Ikara Colt that all feature on those comps. You don’t get bands like that nowadays. It was just a really great time for music and youth culture just after the Millennium. Something that we feel can never be repeated. Back then you could get a student grant to study and go out to gigs without being strapped for money. The Tory rule has had a real knock on effect with legendary music venues closing down every other week. Hopefully Britain’s youth will take a stand and protest the current restrictions that is putting the country in total limbo.
Listening to the album I think I can hear The Cure and PIL as influences. What other bands have really helped define your music?
There’s so many. PIL have been a massive influence on us as a group and I was lucky enough to catch one of their very early comeback gigs at Electric Ballroom in Camden in 2009, I grabbed John Lydon’s head as he walked through the crowd and he gave me that crazy stare as he chanted into the mic “Don’t touch what you can’t afford”. Those first 2 albums are fantastic aren’t they? I never actually watched The Cure live until a couple of years after The Gaa Gaas formed, but the first time was at La Route Du Rock Festival in the North of France in 2005 and they were headlining. I was an absolute state from drinking heavily the previous nights and accidentally vomited all over someone’s head. I had to duck and run. I felt terrible, and I as looked back I could see a flood of fists, so it’s a good thing I got away otherwise that could’ve ended up quite badly for me. Whoever got the blame for that, I’m sorry!
Your videos seem to draw upon various influences, such as the Residents with the ‘One Eyed Stranger’ video and actual vorticism with the V.O.L.T.A.I.R.E. video. Aside from these what other visual ideas are prominent in the imagery of the Gaa Gaas?
The ideas just seem to pop out around the time of creating the visuals. Nothing is ever properly pre-planned and that’s the way we like doing things cause it feels less forced. The music video for ‘V.O.L.T.A.I.R.E.’ came out a year after the single was actually released due to our previous label The Playground trying to push ideas that we were not interested in. The original idea for the video was to have us playing in the middle of rush hour in the center of Victoria Train Station with all our equipment. There was no chance we were going ahead with that. The idea of it gave me anxiety! So we delayed it until we were eventually dropped and then put it out ourselves with our own ideas of how we wanted it. Filming it in our back garden and graffiti’d churches near by seemed much less coercive. ‘The One Eyed Stranger’ video was our first and The Residents had to be replicated as their bizarre visualizations worked so well for this song, not only lyrically, but also visually. We had just signed to Parallax Sounds and not long after the video was put out, our label were threatened with legal action by the British Government unless they took the video offline due to the unforgettable Job Center Plus scene.
It’d be interesting to hear a bit more about your experiences around the Dirty Water club, including run ins with assorted personalities.
It’s definitely the mecca of London garage punk club nights. Every music icon of the 2000’s were spotted in this legendary Tufnell Park dive. Everyone from Pete Doherty, Amy Winehouse The Horrors and even Virgin Records big wig Richard Branson on the scout for up and coming groups. The White Stripes and The Kills played their first ever UK shows there and The Parkinsons became a resident force selling it out every time and still do to this day. You can see footage of them playing the night in their documentary film DVD ‘A Long Way To Nowhere’ released in 2018 directed by Caroline Richards (also known for co-editing Dr Feelgood’s documentary with Julien Temple). The Gaa Gaas supported The Rippers there in 2009 and at that point in time we only had one recording on Myspace of a cover of Plastic Bertrand’s ‘Ca Plane Pour Moi’. Dirty Water Club loved it and described us as “Probably the only band on the planet capable of making Plastic Bertrand sound like The Jesus And Mary Chain”. If it wasn’t for this landmark event, you wouldn’t have enjoyed the dirtier side of all your favourite guitar bands from that period cause most of them were born in the Boston Music Room while playing for this hugely influential club night. I’d put money on it!
You’ve released an album of remixes of some of your tracks alongside the official ‘The Gaa Gaas’ ten tracker. Some of the remixes of your songs take things in directions that aren’t obvious from listening to the first album itself. I understand that you’ve a second album on the way, are you intending to keep the Darkwave sound or perhaps go off in other directions electronically?
We had all those remixes saved which we were completely blown away by during different periods of the last decade. It was a very last minute decision just days before we entered 2020 that this was going to be a proper release putting out the digital version of ‘The Remixes’ on New Years Eve also to see a physical release this year. We have always been massively into dance music covering many sides of the genre. Everything from The Prodigy through to Chicane through to Apex Twin, also krautrock music old and modern, stuff like Damo Sazuki, Qluster, and Squarepusher. To have people that are more familiar with producing those type of sounds give their renditions of our songs, it makes us feel extremely humbled. We loved that about The Stone Roses and Ian Brown, how they would have greats from Manchester like A Guy Called Gerald remixing their stuff and giving exposure to other great artists from their home city. The Cure are well known for this also; another example would be The Flaming Lips. It’s that type of forward thinking that opens new musical adventures and relationships which is never a bad thing. We’ll definitely be more electronic on our sequel record, something that has been missing from the live show as we haven’t always been in the same place. We’re in talks to have John Foxx produce and engineer so that will give you some clue about what we have in store for the second album.
Which of the places you’ve based yourselves in – Jersey, Brighton, London – has had the biggest influence on your music and songwriting, or proved the most productive location for The Gaa Gaas? Is where you are important or are there other factors involved?
Unfortunately Jersey is not the greatest place to be if you’re wanting to do things on a larger scale. There’re some amazing events that take place in the island, but very little industry and no music publications at all to support the bands and DJ’s that are based there. The only people blogging and supporting the scene regularly are the Channel Islands BBC team in Guernsey and we tip our hats to them. I think everyone in the group would agree that Brighton is the more productive base as the lifestyle and lack of restrictions allow more ability to create new music! London is a much harder life due to the bigger city hardships which are mostly to do with lack of finance especially when it come to self funded projects, but I feel that some of our greatest moments have come to light here. I think more ideas lyrically come from living in the big smoke.
What future plans are there for The Gaa Gaas?
Take the world by its arse and unleash as many great records as we can. The aim is to play many more shows compared to recent years, so summer onward we’ll be taking the live set all around the UK and Europe again; kicking off with a huge London show at 93 Feet East in Brick Lane on Saturday 9th of May. We definitely plan to play the US after past cancellations cause it’s been a life long dream. As for all the Brexit propaganda and current visa issues, we won’t let it phase us. With any luck the whole of the Conservative party will become diagnosed with Coronavirus and Boris’s wig will blow off departing our mortal coil that they’re very much responsible for. I suppose on the plus side of the worlds current chaos, there’s certain to be some excellent music as a result of it. We are confident we’ll contribute to that.
Movement 2 Records Presents on 09-05-20 @ 93 Feet East, 150 Brick Ln, London E1 6QL, (Nearest tube: Liverpool Street Station)
The Gaa Gaa’s performing the recently released ‘Self Titled’ debut album in its entirety with physical copies sold on the day along with previous singles, EP’s and T Shirts!
The Gaa Gaas
The Red Stains
DJ Robert King of legendary Scottish post-punk band (Scars) and pioneer of the Fast Product label will be spinning some of the greatest funk & soul hits to grace the known universe.
This event is supported by Musicians Against Homelessness whom will be collecting donations on the night to help our less fortunate brothers and sisters that are living rough on the streets of Britain so please give what you can.
Free M2R mixtape and fanzine on arrival.
5pm Till Late
*****First 5 people through the door will receive a free Gaa Gaa’s ‘Self Titled’ CD album.*****